LEGAL INFORMATION AND UPDATE
法律快訊

5th Issue (August 2018)

第五期 (2018年8月)

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Occupiers’ Liability – A reminder

占用人法律责任 – 提示

Introduction

Occupiers’ liability refers to the potential liability of occupiers arising from occasions where visitors suffer injuries on the occupiers’ premises by reason of the occupiers’ failure to maintain the premises safe for use. In Hong Kong, occupiers’ liability is regulated by both the Occupiers Liability Ordinance (Chapter 314, Laws of Hong Kong) (“OLO”) and the common law. This newsletter shall focus on the applicability of the OLO and elaborate on the extent of the occupiers’ duty of care owed to visitors and the requisite standard of care. It then addresses a common misconception about the occupiers’ liability through illustrations.

 

1.Occupiers’ Duty of Care

To assert the legal rights under the OLO, there must be an ‘occupier’ for the purpose of the OLO. In this regard, an occupier must possess sufficient control over the premises. Such occupier owes a common duty of care to all visitors so that the occupier must take reasonable care to keep visitors reasonably safe in using the premises. Visitors include all persons permitted or invited by the occupier to enter or use the premises, and also those who enter the premises to exercise a right conferred by law, such as police carrying out searches with warrant. Difficulties normally arise in justifying implied permission as the plaintiff needs to further prove that the occupier has knowingly tolerated and has not prevented the plaintiff’s regular intrusions on the premises concerned (Lowery v Walker [1911] AC 10). So far as children are concerned, under exceptional circumstances, if a reasonable man can anticipate that the attractiveness and peril of the premises can allure children to step on the premises, there may be an implied permission for children to enter and use the premises (Latham v R Johnson & Nephew Ltd [1913] 1 KB 398).

 

In view of the above, persons who enter the premises without permission, for example, trespassers, fall outside the scope of the OLO and shall be governed by common law principles.

 

2.Standard of Care

One main factor to determine the standard of the common duty of care is the degree of care and of want of care which would ordinarily be looked for in a visitor. Therefore, if the visitor is a child, an occupier is expected to consider children to be less careful than adults and should take extra measures accordingly.

 

3.Common Misconception

It is a general misconception that a person who sustains an injury on some premises must be entitled to attribute responsibility to the occupier of those premises. In essence, where the injury at issue does not result from the defective state of the premises, it is unlikely that the OLO will apply. In other words, if the peril which gives rise to the injury solely stems from the activities on the premises and is not related to the state of the premises, the aggrieving party should bring a negligence claim under the common law negligence, rather than under the OLO. For example, an occupier hired a contractor to carry out renovation works on his premises. The contractor later sustained injuries when carrying out the necessary works on the premises under a steady and safe environment. In this case, the contractor was permitted by contract to enter the premises as a visitor. However, the injury did not arise from dangers introduced by the state of the premises, but the activity of the renovation instead. While there is no claim under OLO, the contractor may raise a negligence claim against the occupier. Needless to say, whether the contractor can win depends on the facts of the relevant case.

 

4.Key-Takeaways

Occupiers should be aware of the limited scope of the OLO and with regard to all circumstances maintain their premises in reasonably safe conditions for visitors. To discharge the duty under the OLO, occupiers can take the following into account:

1) Identify the persons who may enter the premises;

2) Carry out regular checks and maintenance on the state of the premises in order to identify and minimize any potential dangers at the first place; and

3) Set out sufficient warnings of any possible dangers in the premises to visitors.

 

 

IMPORTANT

Please note that the information above is a preliminary overview of this specialized area of law. As every case depends on its facts, it is imperative to state that the above does not constitute formal legal advice. We do not accept any responsibility whatsoever in respect of this publication. Should you wish to seek our advice or assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us. If you wish to unsubscribe, please inform us by email at mail@allawyers.com.hk.

简介

占用人法律责任是指当占用人未能确保其处所是可被安全地使用,以致访客在该等处所中受伤,占用人需对访客负上的法律责任。在香港,占用人法律责任是由《占用人法律责任条例》(香港法例第314章)(下称“该条例”)和普通法规管。本文将集中讨论该条例的适用性,阐述占用人对访客所须负的谨慎责任的程度和所需的谨慎标准,亦会透过举例澄清一个对占用人法律责任常有的误解。

 

1.占用人的谨慎责任

如要主张在该条例下的法律权益,相关占用人需对该处所具有足够控制权。该占用人对所有到其处所的访客负有一般谨慎责任,所以该占用人需要采取合理谨慎的措施以确保访客在处所内是合理地安全。另外,“访客”的定义包括任何获占用人准许或邀请进入处所的人士,及为行使由法律所授予的权利而进入处所的人士,例如,持有搜查令而进入处所搜查的警察。如申诉人要证明占用人曾暗示允许申诉人进入该处所,要先证明占用人在知悉申诉人定期进入其处所的情况下容许且没有阻止申诉人进入 (Lowery v Walker [1911] AC 10)。在特殊的情况下(如牵涉儿童访客),若合理人士能预料儿童会受处所自身的吸引力及风险诱惑而踏进处所,便足以证明前述的暗示允许 (Latham v R Johnson & Nephew Ltd [1913] 1 KB 398)。

 

其他未经批准却进入处所的人士不被该条例下“访客”的定义涵盖,所以归由普通法规管。

 

2.谨慎标准

在决定一般谨慎责任的标准时,一个主要因素是一般预期该访客会具备的谨慎程度,以及欠缺谨慎的程度。因此,占用人必须料到儿童访客不及成年人访客谨慎,并应采取相应的措施。

3.常有的误解

不少人认为只要在处所内受伤便可以将责任归咎于占用人。但实际上,如果访客所承受的损伤不是因为处所的状况存有缺陷而构成的危险所造成,该条例很大机会不能在这种情况下适用。换言之,如果只是因为在处所内进行的活动构成危险而导致访客受伤,而该危险跟处所的状况无关,应该在普通法下申索疏忽赔偿,而并非依赖该条例。例如,占用人聘请了承包商在安全稳定的处所内进行维修工作,其后在处所内因工受伤。就此事件而言,根据该条例,承包商根据协议得到准许进入处所,可视为访客。不过,由于承包商因维修工作导致的损伤与处所的状况没有关连,他不能够引用条例提出申索,却可以在普通法下向占用人申索疏忽赔偿。毋容置疑,申索究竟会否成功仍需取决于相关案件的其他因素。

 

4.本文要点

占用人需要留意该条例有限的范围,以及综合所有情况后将处所保持在一个合理地安全的状况给访客使用。若要履行该条例项下的责任,占用人可以考虑以下几点:

1)清楚识别可能进入处所的任何人士;

2)定期对处所的状况进行检查和维修,以尽早识别和减低处所内任何潜在的危险;及

3)就处所内潜在的危险向访客发出充足的警示。

 

 

重要提示

本文内容仅为此专门的法律领域提供初步概览。由于个案的事实会有所不同,本所务必提醒阁下以上的数据不构成本所提供的正式法律意见。本所亦不就本文的刊登承担任何法律责任。如需本所的专业意见或协助,请与本所联络。如阁下将来不希望收到本所的法律快讯,请通过电邮方式通知本所(mail@allawyers.com.hk)。